What happens during a threat assessment?

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The threat assessment model follows three basic steps: reporting and identifying threats, assessing and classifying threats, and responding and managing threats.  In the first step, students, staff, or other individuals who identify a threat are to report this behavior to a school administrator, such as the principal or assistant principal.  When a threat is reported, the school administrator should immediately initiate a threat assessment that includes reviewing the threatening behavior or communication; reviewing educational and other records; and interviewing the individual who made the threat, the recipients of the threat, and other witnesses who have knowledge of the threat.  The purpose of this interview is to assess the threat in context, so the meaning of the threat and whether the individual intends to carry out the threat is understood.

The threat assessment team works to determine if the threat is easily and readily resolved, otherwise known as a "transient" threat.  Examples of transient threats are jokes, figures of speech, temporary feelings of anger at the time of the threat, or rehetorical remarks that do represent genuine or continued intent to harm someone.  Any threat that cannot be clearly resolved as "transient" or indicates a contuining intent to harm someone beyond the immediate incident is treated as a "substantive" threat. Substantive threats always require protective action and intervention to prevent the threat from being carried out.  When the school threat assessment team determines that a student has made a "very serious substantive" threat, the team additionally requires a temporary detention order evaluation with Loudoun County Emergency Services and a follow-up mental health evaluation.  The team will consider recommendations from the mental health evaluation to reduce the risk of violence and to address the problem or conflict underlying the threat.  For both transient and substantive threats, there is an emphasis on helping individuals and resolving the underlying issues.